Interview – Marky Ramone of Ramones

marky2Punk Rock was the revolution that inspired a generation to be themselves, stand up for what they believed, and provided them an outlet to express themselves. Four decades since beginning, the genre has laid the groundwork for generations of creativity to follow in a variety of forms of Rock, and perhaps the most influential band of all was New York’s Ramones. The definitive Punk Rock band, Ramones are revered by people of all ages following their storied short career. Behind the drum kit and a vital part of the ensemble for fifteen years of their history, was the charismatic Marky Ramone. Helping the band expand their sound with his abilities, Marky is a beloved member of Ramones and Rock-n-Roll history. Now all these years later, the boy from the borough of Brooklyn has become an entrepreneurial leader continuously making music, beginning his own line of sauces, hosting a radio show on Sirius XM, and in 2015 releasing his book, Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life As A Ramone. Recently we had a chance to sit down with the humble, inspirational man for a look into his history in music, his time with the Ramones, community first attitude, Horror movies, and more. – You have attained quite an amazing life in Rock-n-Roll including of course your fifteen year tenure with The Ramones. With aspirations to pursue music at a young age, tell us, what has this amazing journey been like?

Marky Ramone – Well, in any form of occupation, it is an adventure. I started out with my first band when we were kids in High School, and then we were signed to a major deal. Then all the way up till now, so I have been in the business for forty years. This is what I have always wanted to do, even when I was 15 or 16 years old. I was not a great student so this is what gravitated me towards playing. It never ends. Now I am dealing with a book, we just resigned with Sirius XM, and I’m going to do a major tour in the Spring after the book tour, so just a lot of things that go on within life that we all expect and unexpect.

Sire – Exactly, as you had mentioned, you have been extremely busy throughout the years with countless projects; the book, music, and you even have your own pasta sauce. Seeing that you have continued to have this ability to be creative, does the inspiration sort of change for you year to year?

Marky Ramone –The food company derived from my memories of my grandfather, who was the head chef at the Copacabana night club in the ’40s and ’50s. I used to watch him, and then as I grew up and left my parents house at 18, I had to cook for myself. The cheapest thing was pasta sauce and spaghetti. Not only that, I have a hot sauce and a Beer line coming out, but it was only under one stipulation; that I donated part of the proceeds to go to charities. The more I do with my food company, the more I can give back to charities; which makes you feel good, and yes it is creative. A lot of chef’s are Rockstars (laughs), so it is pretty funny how things develop in life. – Yes, it is. It is great that you are able to give back like that.

Marky Ramone – Oh yeah, you gotta, you do.

marky – Yes, absolutely. It is a nice thing to do. You mentioned the book, Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life As A Ramone, which came out a few months ago. What is great about this book is it sort of proves that when Ramones fans think they know everything about the band, they are wrong, because there is more to know. You really have a lot to offer with the stories in this book. What was it like putting it together?

Marky Ramone – I wrote it, that is the big difference. I am not going to knock any of the other books, but I wrote this one. Doing 1,700 shows and being in the band for 15 years, it is not only about the Ramones. It is about the other bands I was in on the Punk scene and the original Punk scene when it started with CBGB in the Mid 70s. It is everything in my life, and the whole thing. It took five years. A lot of people assume that when you put out a book, you wrote it and it’s out. No, it takes years to put down, pen to paper, your voice to tape, but it was everything, composition notebooks. I have the largest Ramones video library in the world; I wanted my memory to serve me correctly, which it did. I had to choose the right writer with me who I had spoken to on a cassette, who would be able to transcribe it into the way I sound. He (Richard Herschlag) was successful in doing that. Yeah, it takes a lot of time and you have to make sure you are in the right place at the right time talking to the person who is going to transcribe the book for you. There are a lot of things that go on besides sitting down and talking into a tape. – Yes, absolutely, there is a lot of hard work that goes into it, like you said. What really is enjoyable about the book is it is very honest and it tells it like it is. It also shows that attaining success is not an easy thing, it takes a lot of hard work.

Marky Ramone – Yeah, if you wanna stay in the game, you gotta have it. You can’t just be a one hit wonder or somebody on a variety show that won something by four judges. It’s really from the heart, what you experienced in life since you can remember, and how it molds you and you become what you are. If you know that this is what you want to do for the rest of your life and you see signs along the way that you are doing the right thing, and you are doing this and doing that; you try to perfect yourself. That is what I have been doing ever since.

Touchstone – Right, and obviously, like any human being, we all have our ups and downs. You have had them, we all have had them, but in the midst of it all you have conquered everything and you have come out on top. All your hard work has paid off. You are a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as well. Was there a point in your life where everything kind of clicked, that you realized, “Hey, I have got it pretty damn good?”

Marky Ramone – When I was on The Simpsons (laughs); that was one thing. That, and getting a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award with Tommy, Joey, Dee Dee, and Johnny; that was really cool. Also working with Phil Spector and doing the movie Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979), looking back at the songs that I am on; that is the measure of your worth. They are not just songs, they’re anthems. You have “I Wanna Be Sedated,” “The Blank Generation,” ” The KKK Took My Baby Away,” “Rock ‘N’ Roll High School,” “Pet Sematary,” “Do You Remember Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio;” these are songs that I played on and it was an honor. That’s when you know that you have kind of arrived, when people are humming these songs along with you, singing them with you when you do live shows, requesting them on your radio show from every state in the country. In the end, the accolades are great with the statues and the awards, but it is what you really did to make people happy performing in front of them, and making good music.

Still from Rock 'n' Roll High School
Still from Rock ‘n’ Roll High School – Yes, that is true. That is what matters the most, is what people take from it.

Marky Ramone – Yeah, hopefully I and the other Ramones brought enjoyment. – Yes, absolutely, and you were an invaluable part of the band for fifteen years. You look at the Ramones, who we all know are key pioneers in Punk Rock, you look at Punk Rock, and it really rooted into a lot of other genres. For example, New Wave Scene, the Alternative Rock scene and the Hardcore, they all stem from Punk Rock in some way or form. With that said, what is your opinion of the pure Punk Rock scene in 2015, if you think there is one anymore?

Marky Ramone – To me, a lot of it out of Southern LA kind of sounds the same. They play the Polka beat, they start off vocally with just a rhythm and guitar, then they come into the song, and then they go half time, then full time, and then it’s the Polka beat again, but that is the style. Not everyone can play like the Ramones, so they developed a style out there, and it works. On my radio show, Punk Rock Blitzkrieg, all I play is Punk. I like the Gallows from London, they are original and I like what they are doing. There are a lot of things I like; the original members of Rancid, the stuff they are doing I like. There is a lot of good stuff today, you just have to keep your ears open, but does it have an impact as the original CBGBs movement had; no. That will never happen again. Hopefully it will, but I don’t see it in full circle, pretty soon.

Marky Ramone at Heavy Montreal 8-9-15 Montreal, QC – Yes, that is understandable, music has changed in general from the way we consume music to the way we find our music; it is different. It almost feels sometimes like the element of anticipation, of surprise, and excitement has gone with the internet. You used to wait for a record to come out. Now people just find it on the internet and just steal it. It is unbelievable how things have changed.

Marky Ramone – Thievery was always around; people steal cars, clothes, and whatever. So what is the difference between that and stealing a song? It is not going to affect me, it is going to affect the young artists out there trying to show their creativity, and this stifles them from being creative, which eventually they will just say, “I will just do something else in life.” We will be stuck with the same old songs. – Yes, you are absolutely right. That is exactly what could happen.

Marky Ramone – Definitely. Who suffers in the end? The people that do the stealing. That is just the way it is now. It seems it is so much easier to lie and steal nowadays than when I was hanging out at CBGBs. – It is definitely more accessible with the internet. It is just so easy to do. It is right there for people to do, unfortunately.

Marky Ramone – That is the blogger field. Unfortunately a lot of people believe blogs than they do the actual truth of the real news of what is going on. It can make them want to lie because they feel it is their truth, and if you don’t believe their truth then they don’t – they feel not too bad, my truth is the truth.

Sire – Yes, you are right, because it is a time where everyone has an opinion, of course, but how much do people actually know is factual from those opinions with the social media and everyone spewing everything out there without any actual validity?

Marky Ramone – Exactly, that is what you get, but that is how it is now. Hopefully the internet can become a lot more positive, and there are a lot of good things about it that are great. You can use it to spread your music around more, you can meet up with a heap of people you used to know that you haven’t seen in a while, it is pretty cool. The blogger field, the bloggers that go on there and write total bull about anything, people have to be aware that it is just a blog and it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is true. – Yes, right. You have to take the good with the bad. This is what we have to do.

Marky Ramone – That is the way it is and the way it has always been. It is the information age. – True, just the mediums have changed. We recently passed the twentieth Anniversary of the final Ramones studio record, ¡Adios Amigos!. Obviously the album brings on an array of emotions for fans considering the events that unfolded in the lives of the Ramones years after.  What are your memories of the record?

Marky Ramone – I really don’t celebrate. It came out, it was a good album, it was the latest album. Me, Johnny, Joey sat in a hotel room in 1994 and decided to retire in 1996, but we needed an album to continue touring and for the last show, we did shows all over the world, and yeah, 20 years. I could say that Road to Ruin was 38 years ago, so there are a lot of different albums out there. I try not to think of it like that. I really don’t participate in yearly events that bring into my mind the unfortunate demise of Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, and Tommy, because when they did die, it really shattered me. We were band-mates, brothers, friends, etc. It is nice to have a shout out, and that it would have been his birthday, but to continuously perpetuate that, it seems very ghoulish. – Completely understandable. We do that a lot in society, we always mark the memory of September 11th 2001, which should not be forgotten of course. People do that for the right reasons, but it does seem kind of ghoulish at times. Sometimes we do not need to be reminded of things we already know clearly in the forefront of our minds.

Marky Ramone – Exactly, I mean the music and the videos are there, and what more do you really need. They are never going to come back. You just have to think of the good times, but ¡Adios Amigos! was a good farewell. “I Don’t Want To Grow Up” is a great song, and I think the last great song Joey wrote was “Life’s A Gas” on there. – It was a great final record. Unfortunately it was the final record, but it was a great record.

Marky Ramone – Yes, and it had good production by Daniel Rey. – Oh, absolutely, and you had mentioned the Road to Ruin 38 years ago in 1978, that was the first record you had played on. The record really saw a change in direction for the band. You played a part in everything that was going on. What was it like working with the band initially for that first time on that record?

Marky Ramone – In 1978, it was analogue, and there were media sound studios in the city. I told Tommy – he did Rocket to Russia and he was in the band for only three and a half years and he left, and I didn’t understand that, so he asked me to join the group. When I did, and did the three to four songs at rehearsal, I told them I was just going to make the snare drum tighter, because he was producing. I told him my ideas, because I did five albums before joining the Ramones, so I had some studio experience, and I wanted to make the drums a little heavier, a little tighter sounding, and it worked on that album. The first song that I recorded was “I Wanna Be Sedated,” which put a feather in my cap. – Yes, as I said, it is true, you really had a huge impact with that record coming in like that.

Marky Ramone – How many three chord albums can you really do? They already did three great three chord albums, Road to Ruin was I guess like the Beatles Rubber Soul (1965) or Revolver (1966), it was something that had to be done. We had to go even further with the creativity because we would have been labeled at that point on a fourth album if it was like the third or first one. They would’ve started to say this sounds like the other one, or this is another three chord album. We kind of put in some lead guitar finally, which Tommy played on – the producer/engineer Ed Stasium, John couldn’t play lead guitar, so we had to have somebody playing on there, but there definitely were different influences on there. There were a lot of different genres of music I would say. There was a Country feel, there was a, well obviously the Punk feel would never disappear. We did “Needles and Pins,” which was really a nice copy of the way The Searchers did it in the ’60s. There were a lot of cool songs on that album. – Yes, absolutely, and speaking of The Searchers, the Ramones have always done some really great cover tracks and such. You obviously have a very broad background; you played in Metal bands and stuff, tell us some of your personal musical influences?

Marky Ramone – The first Who album, obviously when the Beatles came out, The Kinks’ “All Day and All of the Night” and “You Really Got Me,” for me, are one of the first Heavy Metal Punk songs. Then Jimmy Hendrix came out and I liked Are You Experienced (1967). Then I liked Cream, The Wheels of Fire (1968). I liked so many people. Phil Spector’s The Wrecking Crew, and his band used to play all those great hits. I liked Jan and Dean, I liked The Beach Boys, so many.

Beatles For Sales (1964) Parlophone (UK)
Beatles For Sales (1964) Parlophone (UK)
Capitol Records
Capitol Records – That is a great mix of Rock-n-Roll. I had one last question for you. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. covers music and Horror and Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of Horror/Sci-Fi films, what are some of your favorite films?

Marky Ramone – Definitely, the first Godzilla, King of the Monsters! with Raymond Burr in 1956 was great. It was a guy in a suit, but he did it really well, in the monster suit. It was a great story about atomic bombs and everything. It just seemed the acting was very realistic in it. 1958’s It! The Terror from Beyond Space, which Alien took and used with the Sigourney Weaver movie. I like The Exorcist (1973), District 9 (2009) that came out about ten years ago about aliens that invaded the earth. District 9, where they came and are robots, really really good. I liked the first and second Alien movies. I like some of the new shark movies, they are pretty goofy and funny, like Mega Shark. I liked the new Godzilla (2014), but it wasn’t anywhere near as good as the first one. I liked King Kong (1933), the first one, and the remake (2005) was pretty good. It was okay. Jack Black was in it, it was good. I like Pumpkinhead (1989), that is good stuff, very cool. – Yes, it was. The original was, they started getting pretty silly after the first one.

Marky Ramone – Yeah, they were definitely stupid, but there is a lot of good stuff.

Embassy Pictures Corporation
Embassy Pictures Corporation
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. – Speaking of Horror, you had a part in 1989’s Pet Sematary with the song by the same title.

Marky Ramone – Well we did the song for the soundtrack and we hung out with Stephen King- Me, Johnny, Joey, Tommy, and Dee Dee. Dee Dee wrote the song, and I think in under 40 minutes. He had the idea in 20 minutes, but he wrote it in 40 minutes. Then we did the video in a graveyard, Sleepy Hollow. It was pretty interesting hanging out with Stephen King and then doing the video and the song. Did I like the movie? I thought it was okay, from 1 – 10, I’d give it a 7. Did I like the second one? No, I think the book was much better and that is just my opinion.

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